Tesco is facing disruption at 70 of its stores in Ireland after talks with unions to resolve a dispute over staff pay broke down.
The long-running stand-off between Tesco and unions stems from the retailer’s plan to change terms, including guaranteed overtime, for around 300 staff still on pre-1996 contracts. Tesco has said these older contracts no longer met its needs, such as Sunday or late-night opening, meaning it has too many of its staff rostered during its quietest days.
However, the union Mandate has argued that workers affected by the changes would see their pay cut by between 15-35% with compensation being offered by Tesco deemed as unacceptable.
Amid threats of staff going on strike at 70 Tesco stores where the pre-1996 workers are employed, both sides last week agreed to try and resolve the dispute after an invitation to talks at the Workplace Relations Commission. However, the talks broke down yesterday after failure to reach an agreement.
Mandate said the planned strikes will now go-ahead tomorrow with its aim to close the 70 affected stores. The union, which represents 95% of staff at Tesco Ireland, said nobody except managers would go to work at the stores.
However, Tesco said its stores and online service would open for business as normal with reports suggesting it may hire temporary staff.
Mandate general-secretary John Douglas said that after 14 hours of talks at the Workplace Relations Commission it had not been possible to reach agreement and that he expected Tesco to act on its plan to impose the cuts on the long-serving staff. He said Tesco management had failed to provide any evidence to justify the cuts, adding: “It is one of the most profitable retailers in the world that has suddenly decided it does not want its longest-serving workers and wants to get rid of them.”
Mandate said the strike would go on until the dispute was resolved by Tesco either going to the Labour Court or halting the cuts.
Meanwhile, Tesco said it had not made a decision on a new date to implement the changes, accusing Mandate of acting outside its mandate for strike action. A spokeswoman for Tesco said its management tabled new proposals at the Workplace Relations Commission which Mandate rejected without giving members the opportunity to vote on them.